ARLINGTON -- The Rangers' offseason is coming to a close, and there are no more big purchases planned. General manager Jon Daniels said he likes the team as is and only sees some potential minor acquisitions before Spring Training.
Daniels will not comment on specific unsigned free agents, but it’s clear the Rangers aren’t interested in signing pitcher Kyle Lohse and outfielder Michael Bourn at this point. Those two are considered to be the two best free agents still available, but the Rangers no longer appear involved with either one.
“We’re looking at some areas of depth,” Daniels said Thursday. “Maybe create some competition for the bench or maybe somebody who could compete for the fifth-starter spot. Outside of that, we’re not expecting anything big. We’re not looking at anything major.
“We like what we have. We like our team, and we want to give some of these young players a real opportunity. Some of the guys, we believe, are winning players, and we want to take a good look at them and see what we’ve got.”
The Rangers explored the possibility of Lohse because of some uncertainty about the back end of the rotation that already includes Matt Harrison, Yu Darvish, Derek Holland and Alexi Ogando. The fifth spot is undecided.
But the Rangers believe they have three viable young candidates in Martin Perez, Justin Grimm and Robbie Ross; they have other young pitchers getting closer, including Nick Tepesch and Cody Buckel; they have veteran Kyle McClellan coming into camp as a non-roster alternative; and they expect Colby Lewis to be ready by June 1 from last summer’s surgery to repair a torn flexor tendon.
The Rangers also believe that they still have a strong enough farm system that would allow them to acquire a significant player during the season if the need arises. The Rangers did that in 2010 when they acquired pitcher Cliff Lee on July 7 from the Mariners.
“The offseason is not the finish line,” Daniels said. “There are always opportunities to improve. There are always opportunities to get players.”
Bourn could fit on any team as a premium defensive center fielder who can bat leadoff and steal bases. He is a two-time All-Star who has earned two Gold Glove Awards, and he hit .274 with a .348 on-base percentage, 96 runs scored and 42 stolen bases for the Braves last season.
But the Rangers are committed to taking a hard look at outfielder Leonys Martin, who played in 55 games at Triple-A Round Rock in 2012 and hit .359 with a .422 on-base percentage and a .610 slugging percentage. He had 12 home runs and 10 stolen bases in 260 plate appearances while missing time with a thumb injury.
The Rangers signed Martin on May 4, 2011, after he defected from Cuba. He has played in 24 games at the Major League level over the past two seasons and he is 11-for-54 (.204) with six doubles, two triples and three stolen bases. He is still raw defensively, especially with his instincts, but the Rangers like his potential combination of speed and power.
“He doesn’t have a lot of experience, but the experience he’s had, he’s done really well,” hitting coach Dave Magadan said.
Martin, a left-handed hitter, could get a chance to be the everyday center fielder or he could end up in a platoon with Craig Gentry, a right-handed hitter. Julio Borbon, who was the Rangers' Opening Day center fielder in 2010 and '11, is still on the 40-man roster, and rookie infielder Laury Garcia, a switch-hitter with speed, will also get a look in the outfield during Spring Training. He hit .292 with 31 stolen bases at Double-A Frisco last season.
The Rangers did try to upgrade their outfield this past season beyond trying to re-sign Josh Hamilton. They tried to trade for Diamondbacks outfielder Justin Upton but couldn’t reach a deal. Instead, the D-backs traded him to the Braves on Thursday. The Rangers, like any team, would have interest in Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton but have been told he’s not available.
So right now, the Rangers plan on David Murphy in left, Nelson Cruz in right and will decide in Spring Training what to do about center field. At some point, Lance Berkman might be able to play the outfield, but he’ll most likely be limited to designated hitter and first base. Mitch Moreland can still play the outfield if needed.
One player who doesn’t get mentioned is right-handed-hitting outfielder Joey Butler, who is not on the 40-man roster. Butler hit .290 with 93 runs scored, 20 home runs and 78 RBIs for Round Rock last year. He struck out 128 times in 493 at-bats, but had a .392 on-base percentage and a .473 slugging percentage.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less